La Finta Giardiniera
In March 2020 everything changed. It didn’t just change; it changed rapidly on a daily basis as the world struggled to cope with COVID 19. Amongst many other walks of life, the live Arts were thrown into complete disarray; this hugely important communion of people participating in a public shared experience. Amazingly and brilliantly, the production of La Finta Giardiniera for the Academy of The Royal Danish Opera was not cancelled. It seemed that everything was going to go ahead as planned. Great! Then a few days before leaving for Copenhagen the next change came; We were given a list of rules that had to be abided by for the production to go ahead; there could be no audience, the singers had to be at least 1 meter apart if not singing, 3 meters apart if they were. They could not touch. They could not share props. There was no way on earth that we could realistically stick to my original concept of the piece; so with 5 days to go I threw it out.
We totally embraced the idea of social distancing, of lockdown, of life on ‘zoom’, of gradually coming out of lockdown (the rules continued to change throughout rehearsals). As well as investigating the broken relationships that make up the opera, we also wanted to explore what the disconnected life of lockdown does to people, the sort of social madness and despair it induces; people stuck in their personal isolation bubbles, but needing to share and communicate their sad and desperate emotions.
We wanted to make something that could work in a theatrical space, but equally in a virtual space. We worked only with what was available. These productions are not backed by big budgets and big teams. If Zoom went down, we would be in all kinds of trouble. We could use what we could find in the props and costume stores. With the singers’ own laptops, the passion and dedication of the cast, the ingenuity of the props and production team, the trust, commitment and tenacity of everyone at the Academy, we put this together.
It was exciting to make. It was fun to make. I am full of admiration for everyone who was part of pulling it together. I suspect, despite what the marketing departments of bigger productions and houses might say, that ours was the first opera to be produced under COVID rules. We edited it together fast to get it out there. We hope you can share in the madness that we so enjoyed whilst we were making it.